This past weekend, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bunbury Music Festival drew huge crowds to the banks of the Ohio River to enjoy some great music in the hot sun. We were lucky to have a beautiful day to enjoy a relatively folksy lineup, with a few cool surprises. A few highlights included The Secret Sisters, Lindsey Stirling, Old Crow Medicine Show, and my favorites: The Decemberists and The Avett Brothers. I was sad to miss certain acts due to scheduling conflicts, but overall, it was a phenomenal day, breathing in that calmingly clean Midwest air, and rocking out to some great music.
The Secret Sisters played at the River Stage, which overlooked the Ohio River’s blue waters, filled with boaters who anchored up to enjoy the music. The Secret Sisters consisting of real sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, displayed some rich harmonies and catchy hooks with their lovely country tunes. I deeply enjoyed the twang in their style, adding to the richness of the sound and the guitar solos. Two standout songs from their set were “Black and Blue” and “If I Don’t,” both from their 2014 release Put Your Needle Down. “Black and Blue” is clearly one of their more popular tracks, as the crowd was excited upon hearing the simple, yet catchy guitar riff. The harmonies were spot on, and the girls were having a great time playing. The song swayed towards the rock side of country, and it was a cool variation to the set. The Secret Sisters described, “If I Don’t” as “the angry song.” Despite the claim of anger, the song was still quite sweet sounding, and I enjoyed it very much.
Next, we headed over to the Yeatman’s Cove Stage to hear the violin stylings of Lindsey Stirling. This girl is a force to be reckoned with, as she danced beautifully around the stage, while seamlessly playing the violin. She was entertaining and entirely impressive to watch and listen to. Stirling played a few selections from Zelda. You could see the video game fans come alive, as she did a phenomenal job bringing those pieces to the stage. The shining moment of her set was her performance of her seemingly most popular track, “Crystallize.” Her music video for the song currently has over 123 Million views on YouTube. It’s easy to understand why the song has garnered so much attention upon hearing it, as I cannot attest to ever hearing a dub step based violin song ever before that release. It’s a great combination of epically melodic violin and heavy electronic music. She performed wonderfully, and the crowd clearly approved as they danced and bopped along to the music. Lindsey Stirling is highly entertaining, highly talented, and incredibly unique. She put on a lively and eccentric set at Bunbury.
I was sad to know that Jamestown Revival was playing at the same time as the Decemberists, but as the Decemberists are my favorite group in the whole lineup, I couldn’t bare to miss their set. We made our way over to the Sawyer Point Stage, where the Decemberists gathered the largest crowd I had seen yet at the whole festival. They certainly did not disappoint, as they played selections from their newest release What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, as well as a selection of fan favorites. From the new album, the standouts were “Make Your Better,” “The Wrong Year,” and “Anti-Summersong.” They sounded great; so good, in fact, that they not only matched their recorded sound, but they far exceeded their recorded sound. It’s really refreshing to see a band you love that sounds even better live than they do on record. They brought energy and excitement to the giant field, filled with fans, and lead singer, Colin Meloy’s voice was truly a treat for the ears. They played a classic of theirs in “O Valencia,” which got the crowd going even harder, but the single best performance of the day, for me, was their closer, “16 Military Wives.” Besides being my favorite Decemberists track, it allowed for the band to end on a high note by involving the crowd in a round of call and response. The audience was enthralled by their charismatic energy, as they chanted back to the band “and the anchorperson on TV goes la de da de da de-da-de-da de da!” This was the first time I have seen the Decemberists live, and it was surely an unforgettable set, ending ever so perfectly.
Up next was Old Crow Medicine Show, also at the Sawyer Point Stage, who brought the country folk vibes back to Bunbury. They reeled us in early with their song “Cocaine,” which was brilliantly lively. The down-home aspect of their sound was greatly appreciated by all. Watching them rock out with the upright bass, the fiddle, a few banjos, and a harmonica diversified them from the rest. They were kooky and fun, dancing throughout their set, making it even more fun for us in the audience. The lead singer, Ketch Secor, said, “We know that there’s a whole lot of hillbillies on this side of the Ohio River,” resulting in thunderous cheers and applause. Other highlights included “Mississippi Saturday Night,” which had everyone dancing and chanting along. The obvious closer was “Wagon Wheel,” delighting the audience who waited all set long to hear that tune.
The last group of the day was headliner, The Avett Brothers. Back at Yeatman’s Cove Stage, the grassy field was quickly filling up with people, as the sun disappeared for the day. The amount of people surpassed any other set I saw that day, and as the headliner, that was no surprise. The Avett Brothers played so many great tunes from a multitude of their albums. They played a long and full set with tracks including, “Shame,” Kick Drum Heart,” and “Vanity.” “Live and Die” was definitely a favorite of mine. The message is all-inclusive, as the lyrics read, “You and I, we’re the same, live and die, we’re the same.” The audience sang along, jumping up and down, loving every minute. They played “Morning Song,” from the album Magpie and the Dandelion, before leaving the stage for encores. The day’s closing performance was “I and Love and You.” Being in an enormous crowd of people in Cincinnati, chanting “Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in” was an extremely cool experience to be a part of. A salute to New York City was a perfect way to end an epic day at the Bunbury Music Festival.
Article: Alex Feigin
Cover photo: Brian Glass